Local pastor has mixed feelings about Hatfield closing

“I never wanted it to close,” said Rev. Rodney Torbic, of the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Carmichaels, after learning that FirstEnergy Corp. would deactivate the Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station. “I feel sorry for the jobs that will be lost,” he said. (Photo by Roberto M. Esquivel)

A pastor of a Greene County church said he had a mixed reaction to the news that Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station will be closing.

FirstEnergy announced Tuesday its plans to close by Oct. 9 the coal-fired power plant in Greene County that has been a community fixture for decades. The company cited cost concerns based on heightened federal air quality standards enacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

St. George Serbian Orthodox Church is perched on a hill across from the power plant in Greene County. The church’s pastor, Rev. Rodney Torbic, said there is constant noise emanating from the plant that he can hear inside the brick walls of his church or at the parsonage. Torbic said during construction, he could hear those noises late at night.

Torbic said in recent years, the power plant has been a much better neighbor because there has been less noise, but it’s never quiet.

“I used to fight with the company – not to close the plant – but my primary concern was the noise,” he said.

Torbic, who has served at the church for nearly 15 years, said before the scrubbers were erected, there was black smoke coupled with dime or quarter-sized pieces of ash.

“When I came here, there were stones this size all the time,” he said. “When there was black smoke coming out of there, sometimes it was blacker and blacker.”

Torbic, who was dressed in dark robes befitting his priestly profession, said he attended a miner’s rally that was held to protest cuts in pay and benefits as a result of Patriot Coal Company’s bankruptcy Tuesday in Fairmont, W.Va. Torbic said past members of his congregation have been miners and a few have worked at the power plant.

Torbic said he has mixed feelings about the plant’s closing.

“I’m not happy people are going to lose their jobs and I’m not happy that there is not going to be coal purchased for the plant, but I’m not going to miss the noise,” said Torbic, an honorary member of the United Mine Workers of America. “You never like to lose jobs.”

Torbic said he doesn’t see any silver lining from the plant’s closing.

“I don’t see one,” he said. “Probably the environmentalists will be happy. They have been trying to shut it down for some time. But I’m also worried about the families that got notice that they will lose their jobs.

“It’s terrible all around.”

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